Do Democracy is a national campaign running duing Parliament Week to find the burning issues that young people really care about.
Each week in the run up to Parliament Week 2014, we’ll be celebrating an amazing young campaigner in the UK as part of our #DoDemocracy campaign. First up is the inspiring Rachael Farrington, 18, from Cheshire. Rachael founded Voting Counts UK, a simple, unbiased political resource, which helps young adults compare political parties and make informed decisions at the ballot box.
We asked Rachael a few questions to find out more about her campaigning:
Q: What motivates you to campaign? How did you get into campaigning?
A: I started campaigning on the issue of youth political education because of its strong link to voter participation.
A lot of my friends and peers would ask me questions about issues going on around the world, they felt the news didn’t really explain the basics enough for them to understand, they’d ask me for advice about who to vote for and what each party stood for. I felt encouraged by their thirst for information but disheartened that they had resorted to asking me for this information.
I have always maintained that it is important to formulate your own opinions on the world and not to be influenced by your friends and family. Unfortunately in an ever internet-centric world, the mass media has been the only alternative option, a mass media that i believe is intrinsically biased. So, when people were asking me I would try to be as unbiased as possible, although this was hard!
It occurred to me that the best way to encourage people to formulate their own opinion is to inform and educate. The majority of schools, to my knowledge, only offer politics as an option at A-Level; before that there is ‘Citizenship’ which from my own experience is just weekly lessons on drugs/alcohol and sex (which are no doubt important, but these lessons can become repetitive after 7 years in high school). It has thus become my opinion that basic political education in schools should be compulsory from GCSE age.
This however, is not something that seems possible within the foreseeable future. It is this fact that brought me to the beginning of my own journey in campaigning, I wanted to give young adults the opportunity to educate themselves and to be able to make an informed decision when they reach the ballot box.
Q: What would you tell other young people who want to get attention on an issue they care about? What first steps should they take?
A: My advice to other young people who want to get their message out is to find like-minded people. My project would not have been possible without working with a number of other similar organisations and interested parties. It is easy to create a support network, which can fuel ideas and campaigns much more efficiently than a singular source.
Q: What’s your next goal?
A: In an ideal world I would like to have my website used by teachers as a resource to refer students to when they have questions about the way government works and the differences between political parties. As far as I’m aware there are not many other websites where you can easily find this information.
Q: What would you say to a cynic, or someone who thinks that politics isn’t relevant to them?
A: Throughout my journey I have encountered a number of people who are genuinely surprised by how much politics actually affects their lives. They see the big issues in the news about war, benefits and the economy but as young people they don’t understand how that will affect them at this age. It takes something big like tuition fees to spark debate and to make young adults see that the decisions made in Parliament can have a huge impact on their future.
I always say to people, if you want politicians to implement policy that works for you, you have to give them the votes to do that. Without young people being engaged they are more likely to shy away from our issues.
Huge thanks Rachael!
Do take a look at Voting Counts UK, an official Parliament Week partner. And if you’re at Brunel University you can go along to their Parliament Week event – they will be working with Union of Brunel Students and Brunel University Politics Society to host a Q&A with John Randall MP (MP for Uxbridge South Ruislip).